San Luis Obispo-based app Ulzi aims to tackle violence and haras - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

San Luis Obispo-based app Ulzi aims to tackle violence and harassment against women

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If you've ever felt unsafe walking alone, a new app created in San Luis Obispo could be for you.

Two Cal Poly grads are launching an app called Ulzi, and it's already gaining national attention.

The idea started with a statistic they'd heard: one in four women will be assaulted during their college career.

"That statistic initially really took us by surprise," said Elan Timmons, co-creator of Ulzi.

The duo also heard one too many stories of their peers feeling unsafe while walking alone.

"There are not that many lights around Cal Poly and I walk home alone from class. A lot of times, I'm often scared and call my parents or call my best friend," said Gabby Lasker, who is a senior at Cal Poly.

"It can get pretty sketchy and dark past the downtown area," said Marilyn Hotz, a Morro Bay resident.

Over the course of several years, with the help of caffeine and tech experts, Cal Poly grads Maxwell Fong and Elan Timmons worked to, as they put it, "revolutionize safety."

"The world is changing, but by far and large, in the last few decades, safety hasn't," said Fong.

One of Ulzi's features is the emergency button, which notifies police and family members when the user is in an emergency.

The app also automatically records audio and video as evidence for law enforcement. If police are busy, the app crowdsources for people close by who are willing to help.

"We notify local community members who might be a block or two away and who are able to respond much more quickly," said Timmons.

"If I had that app and could see someone was distressed around me, I would certainly check it out. I think I would go after it," said Hotz.

Then there's Ulzi sense, which works in the background of your phone.

"We use artificial intelligence and machine learning to be monitoring your phone for telltale signs of violence," said Timmons.

The app will ask the user to enter a passcode if everything is okay. If not, help will be on the way.

Now let's say someone is on a date and they feel uneasy, but it's not necessarily a 911 situation. That's where the 'yellow alert' comes into play. The app will notify a friend or family member who can interfere before a situation turns dangerous.

Timmons and Fong hope to launch the app this spring.

The team is also in a $1 million competition, XPRIZE, which challenges competitors around the world to leverage technology to create safety solutions that help tackle violence and harassment against women. The Ulzi team will fly to India in April to compete.

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